Thursday, October 10, 2013

Assumption College professor says Gregorian chants beat today's 'loud' songs

News item:

WORCESTER — The Rev. Donat Lamothe said he doesn't like much of the music that's being produced today, but those who disagree with the Roman Catholic priest might want to think twice before picking an argument with him.

After all, he's spent much of his 50 years at Assumption College teaching undergraduates the beauty and intricacies of the art form.

“I respect the right of people to embrace whatever music appeals to them,” said Rev. Lamothe, a member of the Augustinians of the Assumption, the order that foundedAssumption College. “But much of today's music is not refined and it has no structure. It's just loud.”

Given his classical training, it's no surprise that Rev. Lamothe's musical preferences trends toward pieces from the Renaissance or Middle Ages, or from the Baroque era whose dramatic and sometimes strained style dominated Europe from the early 17th to mid-18th centuries.

“I really enjoy Gregorian chant and other forms of sacred music,” said the clergy­man.

Rev. Lamothe has been a presence on the Assumption campus for five decades.

At 78 years old, the New Hampshire native is in good health.

However, he has decided to cut back on his faculty chores and is now teaching part-time. Students can still draw from his vast knowledge by enrolling in the basic History of Music course.

College officials said they couldn't recall anyone with longer faculty longevity.

“I love what I do but it's time to cut back,” said Rev. Lamothe in an interview in his office in Founders Hall, which features a harpsichord that he had built many years ago.

Rev. Lamothe began his music studies as a child taking piano lessons.

He greatly admired his uncle, the Rev. Francis R. Lamothe, a diocesan priest in Manchester, N.H. At the age of 6 or 7, he considered following “Uncle Rudy” into the priesthood, so his parents sent him to Worcester to study at Assumption Preparatory School.

After two years at the school, he entered the the Augustinian novitiate, making his first profession of religious vows in 1956.

He was ordained a priest in April 1962 in Lyons, France, and began teaching philosophy at Assumption College in 1963.

Over the course of his studies, Rev. Lamothe amassed a number of degrees, including a licentiate in philosophy from the University of Ottawa in Canada, a master's degree in theology from St. John's University in Minnesota, a master's degree in musicology from Boston University, and doctorate in musicology from the University of Strasbourg in France.

He has taught music, philosophy and Bible studies at Assumption.

In 1965, Rev. Lamothe, who has mastered the piano, the harpsichord, the recorder, the lute, and the viola, founded and served as music director of the former Salisbury Consort of Early Music, a semi-professional ensemble that utilized instruments from the Medieval and Renaissance periods.

In 1997, he became the director of the Assumption Schola Gregorian, a group of singers who perform the Gregorian chant tradition at various events.

Rev. Lamothe is also the college's archivist and was given the Presidential Award for Excellence in Contribution to the Mission of Assumption College.

In 1997, after studying for some time with a Russian immigrant, Rev. Lamothe, an Assumption College alumnus, began painting the religious icons of the Eastern Orthodox churches.

“Music and iconography are prayer, and I love them both,” he said.

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